Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On clients repeating stories

A man has come in twice now and each time repeated the same story of his wife’s sexual indiscretion.

And how does that impact you right now?

I guess I’m concerned that he’s not getting anywhere. Maybe he doesn’t feel like he’s being listened to enough, . . . I don’t know. It’s okay to ask him directly. Chances are it isn’t you who isn’t listening, it’s him.

Pay attention to process, and while he’s telling his story, make some guesses and act on those guesses. Work with his responses.

“What do you notice about yourself now that you’ve said that? Say it all again and pay attention to your emotional experience as you talk.”

“Imagine your wife is in this empty chair and tell her what you just told me.”

“What is it you fear?”

“When else have you experienced this degree of amazement at someone else’s behavior?”

“I wonder if you’re concerned that I might not be trustworthy either? How do you respond to the idea that I see other clients? Oh, it’s not a problem for you? Well what’s the difference?”

“Speak from the part of You who is or would like to be sexually indiscrete.”

Invite him to explore how the sexual relationship with his wife mirrors his family of origin.

Wonder why he chooses to stay with this indiscrete person and what the secondary benefits of such a relationship are.

Since he is so focused on his wife’s behavior, my hit is to focus him, not necessarily on his behavior, but on his own responses.

“Return to the moment you learned of your wife’s indiscretion. In your mind, freeze the frame. Where are you? What are you doing? Do a tour of your mind. What’s happening. Do a tour of your body. How is it responding? What else do you notice. How do you experience yourself? Notice each of your emotions. What memory comes forward?

Invite the whole scene (above) to progress in super slow motion, suggesting he be as acutely aware of himself as possible at each step. At any moment of realization, direct him to push the “pause button.” This is a moment when he may be face to face with one of his issues. This may be one of the moments he left his body. Invite him to hang out awhile in this moment and explore it. Be gutsy and invite him to experience it. Let go of wanting or needing him to accept your invitations or to make them work for him.

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